MARTINEZ -- Most of the nine candidates vying for three seats on the Antioch school board say they support a state initiative on the November ballot that would help keep in place funding for schools, but they differ slightly on how to address campus safety concerns.

Incumbent Diane Gibson-Gray and challengers Linda Anderson, Randy Benevides, Barbara Cowan, Synitha Walker, Debra Vinson and Jack Yeager recently participated in a forum moderated by Bay Area News Group political editor Lisa Vorderbrueggen.

The forums will begin airing on local government channels Friday.

Incumbent Claire Smith and challenger Zandra Raphael did not attend.

Yeager was the lone candidate against both Proposition 30 and competing measure Proposition 38, saying he's basically against raising taxes. He added that the state constitution already mandates that 40 percent of the state budget go toward education.

Vinson, Walker, Anderson, Benevides and Cowan all said they support Prop. 30 because Antioch has experienced too many cuts to student services and the tax increase is supposed to be temporary.

Gibson-Gray did not answer the question because board trustees were going to be discussing the items at a future meeting.

The candidates then discussed how they would handle the budget situation if Proposition 30 fails.


Advertisement

Antioch Unified has had several violent incidents near high school campuses in recent years, including two nonfatal shootings.

Walker said Antioch Unified must continue to work alongside law enforcement and the city and look into creating youth job programs that could help offset school violence.

Cowan said the district needs to work at engaging youths, making sure kids with violent records are monitored, while increasing campus security.

Antioch has reinstated security guards on campus, Anderson said, adding that it should look into adding more.

The high schools need to have school resource officers visible on campus, Benevides said.

"Crime is stopped by being visible," he said.

Vinson said feeling unsafe at school can lead to truancy issues. In addition to working with law enforcement, the district needs community involvement from church groups and meetings with police that aren't perceived in a negative light, she said.

Yeager said the district must increase the number of safety monitors, and build a strong bond among classified employees, police and safety monitors to show they care.

Gibson-Gray pointed out that the district has worked to address the issue by adopting a "quasi-uniform" policy to help identify kids who aren't supposed to be on campus. She also said the district has established a great partnership with the city and police.

All of the candidates say they supported Measure B, a $56.5 million bond initiative asking property owners in the older section of Antioch whether they would pay nearly $50 annually over the next 30 years to modernize aging Antioch High School.

Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.

ANTIOCH SCHOOL CANDIDATES ROUND TABLE
Air dates and times:
Channel 24: 8 p.m. on Oct. 5, 7, 12, 14, 19, 21, 26 and 28.
Contra Costa Television (CCTV) airs countywide on Comcast Channel 27. It also airs on AT&T U-Verse Channel 99 and Astound Channel 32 in Concord and parts of Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek.
Channel 26 airs on Comcast in Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill, Martinez, Lafayette, Moraga, Orinda, Alamo and Danville.
Channel 24 airs on Comcast in East Contra Costa County.
Residents in the following communities can watch their local forums on Comcast Channel 28: Richmond, Walnut Creek, Concord and a combined Martinez, Pleasant Hill and Clayton.
The video can also be viewed at www.contracostatimes.com.